Real-Life Robots: Are We There Yet?

The topic of robots has been around for decades, and it has been present not only in scientific circles, but it has also been explored in popular culture, like movies and literature, and even cartoons. Scientists have been working on creating robots for many years now, and the robot enthusiasts among us are still waiting for the day they start selling them in shops for home use. That day still seems intangible, but no doubt science has made some significant progress and actually created robots that are pretty impressive. They may not be very intelligent yet, or crafty enough to be able to repair your watch, for example (thanks Patrick), but they still have some functions you’ll find pretty useful. We’ll introduce you to the more interesting ones and promise you’ll be blown away.

  • Meet Sophia. She’s a humanoid robot that’s capable of holding a simple conversation and is able to display around 40 different facial expressions. Sophia uses artificial intelligence, visual data processing, voice, and facial recognition, and she can imitate human gestures. She was developed by a Hong Kong-based company called Hanson Robotics and launched in February 2016, and their aim was to create a robot to be a suitable companion for the elderly at nursing homes.
  • Aeolus is the dream robot for everyone who detests household chores, aka everyone. This robot is designed to be able to autonomously help around the house with various chores. It is a truly multitalented robot – it can use the vacuum cleaner, mop the floors, and stack the shelves. It is equipped with sensory technologies to be able to differentiate between all the family members, as well as objects in the home. It also has built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Home so that you can talk to it.
  • And then there’s Pepper, another humanoid-like robot. Pepper is special in that he can sense basic human emotions and can exhibit his own feelings. He is designed to be able to interact with humans through his touchscreen where you can choose the language you want to interact in – there are 15. Pepper was manufactured in Japan by SoftBank Robotics and launched in June, 2014. He is placed as an assistant in offices, banks, airports, and restaurants around the world with the purpose of helping customers.

These robots are only a fraction of what scientists are vigorously working on, but we have to say we are truly impressed. What do you think, what’s next? Are we living in the future yet?

Self Defense in Space

My imagination goes wild when it comes to astronauts, spacecrafts, and outer space. I could have written some episodes of the old Star Trek TV series and concocted alien invaders to the mother ship. The crew would have to defend themselves with a special stun gun that was larger than the kind we know today. It would have the power and impact to deter a creature from another planet (hey, that a good name for a movie).

Self defense may seem a bit farfetched these days as it pertains to our guys in the sky. We would actually welcome an alien in their midst as it would prove that there is life out there in the vast universal hinterlands. I read that Russian astronauts were once issued an odd multi-use weapon that was a combination shovel, machete, and gun. I suppose they could choose which area to use depending upon the need. What did they envision? Would they be on the moon or Mars, or would one of them suddenly go nuts. Outer space has the potential for hostility I imagine but you can’t use a gun as it would never stop moving. You had better have an excellent aim. Ha! Instead, a knife or brass knuckles would have to do. Don’t leave home without them.

Rather than aliens, perhaps Russians could invade US spacecrafts and vice versa. I can see that scenario. Although we are no longer in the Cold War, I could write a period screenplay with this as the premise. How would the attackers get in the craft? It would take place in the space station as the Russians, for example, would arrive from time to time. They would ostensibly be friendly or in need of aid and the Americans wouldn’t want to turn them away. Then things go awry! What fun. A battle of the space opponents using all kinds of weapons. Fists flying alongside the arms. Would the U.S. astronauts have anything like pepper spray or a steel baton? Likely not. If the movie took place during a period of intense rivalry, there could be a constant series of battles necessitating the use of space weapons (no guns).

I suppose the pepper spray would float in zero gravity so I will have to rule that out as I think about it. The other traditional means of self defense like the ones on this blog would be the only recourse unless something new is invented. I am going to give this great thought so I can execute my story and round it out with all the right details. A machete? Heavens, no. Should I flout science and create a gun that works in space or would it lack credibility? I challenge my readers to help me out and design a terrific all-purpose space weapon. Tell me about the design and how it works. Remember, no bullets.

How does the story end? Do the Russians escape? Is anyone killed? Are the Americans stranded and need to be rescued? Wow, this is fun.

Be Glad You Aren’t an Astronaut

Everyone loves the modern high-style looks of Kohler products, but you can’t own one on a shoestring budget. For me, it is Toto all the way. It is one eighth the price. You still get reliability and durability with every model. I haven’t experienced any mishaps. Getting quality, even at a low cost, keeps the plumber at bay. Saving money is what it is all about. There is a reason why it is a popular and widely-recognized industry leader brand. Let me give you an image. It is a sleek, elongated design with a superior flushing system that draws water into the bowl quickly. Then it forces it out at a glance. Picture the fittings, the chrome-plated trip lever, and the luxury seat that are all included.

I am going on and on about my fabulous toilet for a reason. I was sitting around thinking about the challenges astronauts face with hygiene and toileting when in space as compared to a typical Toto like the ones on this web page in most bathrooms. Yes, I am a huge fan of the technology. I am even interested in the most mundane solutions to normal human problems. Anything to keep our guys comfortable and content. In case you don’t know, they fasten themselves to the appliance so they won’t float away. Then, simply put, there is a device akin to a vacuum that sucks waste away after which they are vacuum dried. Very efficient and cleverly designed! Want to know more details?

While the Space Shuttle has toilets, and not too foreign ones at that in terms of appearance and function, it doesn’t have a wash basin or shower. There is one to a customer so to speak (for both men and women). I think the astronaut toilet looks western style and is placed behind a partition. No other privacy is offered. I suppose they get used to others hearing them go. I also imagine that noise is camouflaged by the sounds from the air conditioning fan and various motors. However, be glad that you are not circling the planet. Every consideration is given to hygiene, but it isn’t what we get in the comforts of our homes.

I am also interested in astronomy and the origins of space. Forgive me for the fun science contained in this blog. There is so much to learn and share. I wanted to write about my passion so I can convey what motivates me to do research to others. I hope my enthusiasm comes through in my words. I can read about most any subject if the author has heart. As for me, I look for subjects that are arcane but relevant. I know a bit about the astronauts’ personalities (did you catch the TV series?) and now it is time to get a glimpse of their individual experiences in space. What is their typical day like? How do they cope with the suction toilet? Weren’t you all dying to know? Ha!

Whatever’s Handy

Fun science makes us tick. This is my motto. I hope you find it apropos for someone who loves exploring space or robotics and the like. I know there are many enthusiasts out there so I hope this blog catches them. It caught you. Join in a realm that will tickle your fancy. The realm of science is unpredictable. You can be as inventive as you like. There is always room for new ideas. Take my new low-tech telescope. I was tinkering around like a madmen late at night and it came to be that I could built such a gadget out of materials that are just lying around. I might need to buy a few parts such as an adjustable lens. I can also take apart an old worn out telescope to fashion my new one.

Science is my passion so let’s see what I get. I started scrounging around to see what I had in my make shift lab in the garage. I have wire cutters and a saw that will handle assorted thicknesses of metal. I can use a vise to bend it to make a round shape. I have all kinds of things that could work for a cap. I also want it to be battery operated if I want a light. This would make it really special. If I come up with a prototype, I can give the instructions and a diagram to kids for at home projects. Hopefully, this will stimulate their imagination to try to make things out of the debris of life.

As I was getting to the end of the project, I had a few parts to glue on for finishing touches. Kind of like ornamentation. This will give the device an old-fashioned handmade look. I looked everywhere in the garage and kitchen and found no epoxy. I was not about to quit at the last minute. I suddenly remembered that a friend was in my bathroom a week or two ago putting on false eyelashes. She had left a tube of her eyelash extension glue. I said to myself, why not try it. It is akin to an adhesive or cement. Let’s give it a go. The result was very positive and the finished product was perfect.

I putter around for days on this project and don’t even stop to rest or eat. It’s all I can talk about. A few false starts have given me pause about whether or not I can pull this off or should shift to another idea. No, I will stick it out. It is not a complicated thing. There is no motor or mechanical mechanism. You can shift the lens range by turning the bottom side. I can make the telescope out of metal, my preference, or plastic. It depends on what works best from a functional and appearance point of view. No, I am not going to manufacture it: everyone wants high tech these days. It is for my own benefit and amusement. I will show it to everyone, however, and get some honest feedback.

Near Space: The Place for Far Out Hobbies

Near Space is a quickly booming interest of many.  Near Space is the shore of space that is just before the official definition of outer space.  It is at about 328,000 feet above sea level where the magic of Near Space happens and there are many who find their hobby within that realm.

Vehicles that travel in Near Space, whether they are ones of hobby or professional research ones, are called nearcrafts.  Rockets that sub-orbit, balloons that are of the high-altitude variety and even camera devices that take photos and videos of the area are all among the things of interest available for enthusiasts of Near Space to take part in.

In Near Space is also called the upper atmosphere.  In this area, ultraviolet rays are extremely strong. So radiation is a huge factor.  There is also a vacuum of 99% or sometimes even greater so exploration is quite challenging which is part of what makes hobbies in Near Space very appealing to many.

Some make a hobby of sending balloons up into Near Space, high altitude balloons that contain packages which may include a camera or a device that sends back data.  Others are into sending hobby rockets up into Near Space.  While this area is of great interest to the military, weather scientists and is used for scientific research as well, it is still possible for the average person to take part in hobbies that involve the upper atmosphere and it’s actually not difficult nor expensive to acquire the credentials to do so.

Hobbyists have different goals in mind when playing in Near Space.  Some are enthralled with space and the hobby is an alternative to actually going to outer space as many would have loved to have been in a space career.  Others have a fascination with the weather and send their devices up to study such.  Still others love the power and mystery that the upper atmosphere brings with it.

While the cost of this hobby can quickly get astronomical, there are options that can be considered.  You can actually ride “piggy back” on someone else’s device if you do your homework and find someone willing to let you (for a fee, of course).  For many, this option provides the same thrill of going into Near Space but at a fraction of the cost.

As hobbies in the Near Space real continue to grow, so do the possibilities.  You can often combine your efforts with that of a fellow enthusiast and cut the price in half.  Or, join a team and the cost is cut even more.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  If you do not have the means to get into the hobby yourself, even at the level of being part-owner of a space vehicle or balloon, you can still enjoy it by watching the races or observations.  There are a growing number of organized events that you can find through searching online and you can interact with people who share your enthusiasm.

For those of us who are fascinated with space, Near Space gives us the opportunity to do things that we cannot do in true outer space.  It is a place that is close enough to play in yet far enough away that it is full of mystery.  If Near Space is beaconing you…answer the call.  Find your place in Near Space!

Home Water Science

There is talk that our water at home is hard and full of unwanted chemicals like chlorine, lead, iron, mercury, and more. It corrodes metal so why not our stomachs when we drink it. You know it doesn’t taste that good. It also attacks our skin while showering or bathing making it squeaky and itchy. As for the hair, let’s talk about dry and limp. It is time to learn more about the science of home water. You could be one of the 85% of Americans that has hard water.

Why is water hard? Aquifers and underground sources that supply collect dissolved minerals from rock. Your water thus could contain calcium, magnesium carbonate, and manganese among other chemicals. The results are undesirable. The severity of hardness is measured by grains (of mineral) per gallon (GPG) or, in some cases, by parts per million of mineral (PPM). One GPG equals 17.1 PPM. Because of recrystallization and scale that hard water produces, you need a tankless hot water heating system to avoid the corrosion of the old-style receptacles. You get costlier utility bills, clogged plumbing, and reduced water flow. This applies to dishwashers, clothes washing machines, coffee makers, and other water heating appliances. Water heaters are up to 30% less effective when plagued with hard water scale.

Just from an aesthetic perspective, hard water makes shampoos, detergents, and soaps less effective and sudsy. They simply don’t clean as well. You also have to use up more water in the rinsing phase. If you didn’t know where bathroom scum comes from, now you know! The answer people like to hear is a soft water filtering system as it has many benefits to the skin and hair. The typical type is a whole-house water softener unit that works by means of ion-exchange. You sign up for the service and the company installs two tanks: one with special resin beads and the other filled with brine. Water is softened by substituting sodium (salt) for hard minerals.

An alternative is a salt-free system that regenerates with a potassium-chloride salt substitute for the sodium. It is a type of descaler that doesn’t reduce hard water minerals as much as it prevents them from being deposited as scale to the surfaces of pipes and appliances. This option seems less effective from my viewpoint and is valuable mostly for those prohibited from salt intake. The dual tank concept seems therefore the best choice for water softening. With this method, you also avoid downtime since while one is regenerating, you have the other so there is no break in service. There is also a controversial magnetic version that utilizes a plug-in device that clips onto an incoming pipe. It sets up a magnetic field that changes the electromagnetic properties of calcium-carbonate minerals so they are repelled by pipes and each other. Not enough is known yet to recommend this option.

Your dual-tank water center is usually installed where it can serve the main inbound water line to the entire house. It also needs a drain for backwashing and of course electrical power if it is not gas driven. Selection of the right size is crucial if a family resides in the home and usage will be considerable.  Size is measured by the number of grains of hardness that can be removed from water between regenerations. You want to go with one that lasts for about three days between recharges.

Learning About Astronomy: “Our Space”

I first got acquainted with astronomy in my first year of college, Astronomy 101.  Not being very good at science topics nor at math, I opted for astronomy to take the easy way out.  But astronomy quickly became a passion for me.

Have you ever looked up at the sky and became full of wonder as you observed the stars?  That is the feeling, magnified one hundred fold, of taking a closer look at space.  The planets, the stars and all that space entails is yours for the taking when you peak through the eyes of a high powered telescope and actually get a grip of what is out there.

For most who are serious about astronomy, you will want to get a telescope that can help you to see the glorious stars and planets in the sky.  You can purchase a very inexpensive one or go all out and spend a fortune if you really want to get a good view.  Many chose to start small and work their way up to more professional equipment.

It is important to choose a great place to look.  If you have access to a spot that is away from the city lights, that is optimal.  Rural areas at higher elevations offer the best of the best in star gazing so take advantage if you live in an area as such.  If you don’t have good access, you might want to plan a special trip so that you can experience space at its finest because the further you are away from distracting lights and the higher up you can be, the better.

It is fun to look but it is even more fun to study up on it.  Finding out about the constellations and the names of the stars will add interest to your hobby.  There are maps of the stars that explain what is what that will guide you in knowing what you are viewing and make it all the more fun.

Learning about Greek mythology enhances this hobby.  Can you find the formations that ancient men worshiped?  When the Greeks set out to create calendars, a spark of interest in astronomy was ignited.  As time progressed, a love affair began with countless stories originating from space like that of Pegasus who was, as mythology goes, gifted a spot in heaven by the god Zeus.  Orion is another Greek constellation.  Orion is an unusually bright and distinct constellation and the story behind it is of the hunter Orion who was extremely handsome and skillful.

Astrology is the combination of astronomy and pseudo-science, the belief that the stars and planets and the activities of space make a direct impact on the way humans behave.  The way the stars were aligned upon a person’s birth and how they line up each day, is thought to play a very important role in their behavior.  Many people turn to a horoscope to find out such things but it is all based on astronomy in the long run.  It is interesting to spot the constellations that are important in astronomy like the scorpion outline with the red stinger being the star Antares.  That is what prompted the sign of Scorpio.  There are many other intriguing astrology based figures in the sky as well and it is interesting to find them and hear the story behind them whether you believe in astrology or not.

Astronomy can be a great hobby whether you just dabble in it for an occasional meeting under the stars or if you go so far as to spend millions on your equipment and design a space room for yourself as many have done in the past.  It is fun that can be shared by young and old alike.  The hobby has been around for hundreds of years and the instruments are constantly being improved upon to make them more powerful, accessible and even more affordable.  Astronomy is a great hobby that is perfect to pursue if you would like to know a little more about “our space”.

Robotics: Playing With Big Boy Toys

Robotics

Have you been thinking of getting into robotics as a hobby?  If so, you will be in good company.  Robotics is a bobby that is quickly growing and it’s not a wonder as to why.  It’s great fun and very interesting too!

You don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy the wonderful world of robotics.  While years ago you would have been required to be one in order to acquire robotics and the parts and accessories needed for them, not so any longer.  You can freely purchase your robot and all else you need online or even from a hobby shop.

You don’t even have to be super smart to do this hobby although that is a major misconception people tend to have when it comes to robotics.  Everything about the hobby has been simplified.  Instructions are made even easier by tips and tricks that are posted online to make this hobby a breeze.  Of course you can always take it to the next level and pump it up a notch by becoming as advanced as you please which could require a bit of knowledge but to what degree you do so  it entirely up to you.

There are competitions that the enthusiasts can compete in which make the hobby even more run.  You can compete in sports robotics, like soccer matches, or race them against one another.  The sky is the limit when it comes to finding out whose robot is the best.  It’s something that many robotics fans take quite seriously.

Many have gotten their start in the hobby by participating in a school event where robotics were used.  Usually, somewhere down the line in school, students are exposed to at least one crash course in robotics and it’s not unusual for a competition to be held.  That’s the time that many attribute to the beginning of their love affair with robotics.

There are competitions in schools and there are professional competitions too.  Because the hobby is growing, the number of competitions are too.  Many are quite specialized these days.  Categories usually include manned and unmanned races or performances.

One of the most popular competition was the DARPA Grand Challenge where unmanned vehicles were raced across the desert.  The purse was $1,000,000 but no one was able to claim it.  The challenge was valuable for research though and spurred some improvements in military robotics.

How did robotics get started?  Simple repetitive motions were the most the first robotics could offer but that was a great feat for the time and soon they were designed to do more and more until now, robotics can do most anything and…they’re smart too.

If you are wanting to get started in the hobby, there are a good number of sites you can access online that will help you decide what area to you like to begin in.  You may like racing driverless vehicles or you may want to lean towards the space realm.  Once you decide, you can then figure out how complex you would like your new hobby to be and go from there.  You may also want to consider the price tag and do a bit of research in that area as some robotics are more expensive as a rule.  There are plenty that are fairly inexpensive and tons that cost an arm and a leg, literally.

The hobby of robotics is addicting.  But it is all done in good fun and is enjoyed by young and old alike.  It’s a fantastic way to bond with children, grandchildren and friends and is also an excellent way to get to know people by sharing the same interests.  If you are considering robotics as your next hobby, you will no doubt love it as millions of others do.  Robotics,…it’s smart play that lets adults have a great excuse to be kids once again.

Microcontrollers: We’ve Got Brains!

microcontrollers

For those who really want to play around with big boy toys, there are robotics.  For those that want to not only play with them, but want to fully control them too, there are microcontrollers.  Microcontrollers are the brains that make robotics tick and they are what makes it all happen.

The robotic revolution is upon us.  From use in schools, hobbies, practical purposes and even in the medical realm, robotics are indeed the future.  And what makes the robotics run?  The brains.  The microcontrollers inside the robotic shells are what ultimately make them tick.

Not only are microcontrollers the brains in robotic devices, they are used in many other areas too.  They store memory such as in flash-drives and are found in remote controls too.  Appliances, toys, power tools and even automobile engine control systems have microcontrollers.  They are powerful yet small and run a myriad of machines, appliances and systems that you most likely use on a daily basis.

It is amazing to learn how microcontrollers work.  There are those that only use a four-bit word system and have very low frequencies.  They use little power and will function when prompted.  Others have higher speeds and power and are designed to be in performance role so that they are ready to roll at all times.

You may have heard the term “computer chip”.  A computer chip is a microcontroller that is the brain of a computer, so to speak.  While the first microprocessor was a 4-bit Intel 4004 and was launched in 1971, they have come a long way since then and the near future is expected to hold some even more amazing progress yet to come.

The technology has advanced but the price of microcontrollers continues to fall which is fabulous for those who are wanting to use them for hobby purposes.  There are many hobbies that use them but one of the most popular is robotics.  Microcontrollers is what makes a robot smart.  It controls them and when you control the microcontroller, you are truly in charge of your toy.

Microcontrollers aren’t just used in robot type toys.  They are also used in remote controlled planes, cars, boats and such.  Often those use a servo.  A servo is different than a motor in an RC toy because you don’t control the actual velocity or torque which is how a motor operates.  Instead, you have control of the motor yourself with positional control.  It is certainly an edge that RC hobby enthusiasts are finding more and more interesting.  Sales in microcontrollers for these type vehicles are growing constantly.

As people become more serious about their hobbies, they are leaning to microcontrollers to control the brains of the toys themselves.  In the same way, microcontrollers are being put into more than ever typical household items and in the cars that we drive, the phones that we talk on and just about every other thing that we come into contact with these days.  Microcontrollers…they are the brains behind the control.

This Hobby Needs Power

The astronomy club from the local high school was having their monthly meeting, this time on a camping trip; and knowing my interests and hobbies, they asked me to tag along. There was going to be a meeting on amateur radio high altitude ballooning, too. I said a resounding “yes.” I have the gear so it was easy to pack up and go at the last minute. I was going to contribute my expertise on relevant aerospace science. Sounds like fun? You bet!

We get to the camping site and it looked good. A nice clearing in a forest area with clean facilities nearby. This was not a wilderness site but had running water, a BBQ pit, and a covered area with tables and benches. So far so good. This would be a no brainer. What could go wrong? Jamie Whitfield, a young science student had his trusty laptop and wouldn’t let it out of his sight. Every time someone mentioned something he was interested in, he looked it up to verify the facts. Kind of annoying if you ask me! But he’s a kid after all.

So we get through an initial group meeting, shared some likes and dislikes, tossed back some soda, and had a nice cookout style dinner. A hearty smoke-free campfire topped off the evening. It was bliss. The next day, the coffee smelled divine and I had a few cups along with my bacon and eggs. Got kind of wired and went hiking for a few hours. When I came back, I found out that whiney Whitfield was bitching about the small portable generator that the group had bought along. It wasn’t working (someone forgot extra fuel) and his batteries were running out. He was livid. The rest of us didn’t care much as it wasn’t really roughing it in this particular camping spot, but we pretended a little sympathy and someone promised to go in search of fuel.

Alas, he didn’t find it and didn’t care. Neither did we. But we were getting a little bored and decided, without planning it and by default, to torment Whitfield. We brought up robotics, one of his top tier categories, and made up some nonsense that he would want to prove wrong. But he couldn’t, of course, and he just sat there by the fire seething. We did it again with some bizarre statements about space exploration causing Whitfield to pout and mewl. After an hour of this meanness, we let up a bit and still Whitfield had no clue of our antics. One kid asked one question too many, however, and Whitfield just lost it and blew up. “I’ll get you all,” he stammered, and he meant it.

By the time the trip was over and we were all talked out, Whitfield lost interest in being angry and let it go. He didn’t sign up for the next trip, however, to no one’s surprise. He never knew that we had ganged up on him solely because of the generator, and guilty we did not feel. He deserved it if you can say that about a teen. After a time, I came to like the boy. He had gumption and curiosity. Someday I will take him aside and tell him the truth. But not for a while.

Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning: Excitement is in the Air!

For those of us who dreamed of being rocket scientists but never quite made it, Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning is heaven sent, literally.  Since the invention of ARHAB in 1967 and the re-launching of the pastime in 1987, the hobby has sky rocketed and as an enthusiast myself, I could not be happier for the new found excitement.

What exactly is Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning, or ARHAB?  It is, simply put, sending a balloon into space with a parachute for recovery with at least one package aboard that includes a radio transmitter which tracks the flight.

The trackers are perhaps the most intriguing part of the set up.  There are many to choose from.  The most common is the Automatic Position Reporting System tracker that changes to a digital radio transmission when it communicates with the Global Positioning System receiver.  Some though, use a beacon that works off an analog system and still others transmit slow data like Morse code and PSK31.  Of course to transmit through these technologies, you do have to have an amateur license unless you operate under a non-amateur transmitter.

Other packages that might be sent along for the ride are sensors, cameras and instruments that log data that can be examined.  Amateur television is also sometimes sent which is really awesome to watch because it transmits real footage of the journey.  BalloonSats are quite popular too.

The typical balloon used is a weather balloon which is made of latex and endures for around 3 hours.  There has been a rush of other types of balloons like zero-pressure balloons, super-pressure balloons and other fancy versions but the weather balloon remains the most dependable.

The Great Plains Super Launch is the Super Bowl for Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning.  It happens once a year and is a celebration of enthusiasts both on site and online.  Those who cannot physically attend can follow the balloons online.

So where exactly do these balloons go?  Near space is the term coined to entail the atmosphere that is over 60,000 feet but not as high as the formal term of space which is 328,000 feet up.  In Near Space, there is a 99% vacuum and sometimes even greater which makes for a temperature of -60 as an average.  It is an atmosphere that remains within the ozone layer so it is exposed to ultraviolet radiation making the trips even trickier.  In fact, radiation in this cosmic area is 100 times more than on earth at sea level.  Balloons are filled with helium or hydrogen in order to reach this area of Near Space.

Why do enthusiasts send balloons up into Near Space?  There are many reasons people get involved in this hobby.  Some, like myself, have been intrigued in doing so since childhood.  It is just exciting to some to launch an object into this mysterious atmosphere and to pilot the feat from start to finish and to observe the material that is received back.  Others are more into doing various experiments and research the feedback for the purpose of their studies.

Don’t knock it until you try it!  Unless you have personally piloted a ship that has gone from a mere balloon on ground to the wild blue yonder, you have never experienced the childhood wonder coupled with the powerful feeling that any rocket scientist must possess.  It’s uplifting, enlightening and educational all at the same time.  If you have the slightest bit of interest, you might visit the Great Plains Super Launch or at least log on and follow the balloons without ever leaving your house.  Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning…excitement is in the air!

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